Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Declaring Palestine

Unilateralism, diplomacy and nuclear war
By Louis Rene Beres
Th Washington Times

Taking advantage of President Obama's "road map" to peace in the Middle East, Palestinian Authority leaders are now launching a new campaign to create "Palestine." Their plan, a diplomatic end-run around Israel, is to venture unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank (Judea/Samaria), Gaza and East Jerusalem. In essence, this plan would seek to create Palestine by vote of the United Nations Security Council.

Jurisprudentially, this strategy would mock authoritative expectations of the governing treaty on statehood: The Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1934). But leaving aside the generally unacknowledged legal requirements of this "Montevideo Convention," the truly main problem would be Palestinian statehood itself.

Once accepted by the international community, whether lawfully or unlawfully, a Palestinian state would significantly enlarge the risks of worldwide terrorism and regional nuclear war.

Any new state of Palestine would be crudely carved out of the still-living body of Israel. Unhesitatingly, this 23rd Arab state would then quickly seek territorial extension, in unopposed and audacious increments, beyond its already constituted borders, and into the boundaries of Israel proper. At that point, despite obvious Arab aggression, the world would almost certainly look away.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) map presently shows all of Israel as part of Palestine. Ironically, for its part, the United States is accelerating military training of "Palestinian security forces." This means that we Americans are now training future anti-American terrorists.

Credo quia absurdum. "I believe because it is absurd." Any Palestinian state would have a deeply injurious impact on American strategic interests, as well as on Israel's survival. After Palestine, Israel would require greater self-reliance in existential military matters. In turn, such self-reliance would demand: (1) a comprehensive nuclear strategy involving deterrence, pre-emption and war-fighting capabilities; and (2) a corollary and interpenetrating conventional war strategy.

The birth of Palestine would affect these two core strategies in several ways. It would enlarge Israel's need for what military strategists call "escalation dominance." As any Palestinian state would immediately make Israel's conventional capabilities more problematic, the Israeli Defense Force national command authority would likely make the country's implicit nuclear deterrent less ambiguous.

Taking the Israeli bomb out of the "basement" could enhance Israel's security for a while, but, over time, ending "deliberate ambiguity" could also heighten the chances of nuclear weapons use.

If Iran is allowed to "go nuclear," an increasingly plausible scenario with Barack Obama in the White House, such nuclear violence might not be limited to the immediate areas of Israel and Palestine. It could take the form of a nuclear exchange.

Nuclear war could arrive in Israel not only as a "bolt-from-the-blue" surprise missile attack, but also as a result, intended or inadvertent, of escalation. If an enemy state were to begin "only" conventional and/or biological attacks on Israel, Jerusalem might respond, sooner or later, with fully nuclear reprisals. If this enemy state were to begin with solely conventional attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem's conventional reprisals might still be met, in the future, with enemy nuclear counterstrikes.

For now, this would become possible only if a still-nuclearizing Iran were spared any forms of Israeli or American pre-emptive attack. It follows that a persuasive Israeli conventional deterrent, to the extent it could prevent enemy state conventional and/or biological attacks in the first place, would reduce Israel's risk of escalatory exposure to nuclear war.

Why should Israel need a conventional deterrent at all? Even after Palestine, wouldn't rational enemy states desist from launching conventional and/or biological attacks upon Israel for fear of an Israeli nuclear retaliation? Not necessarily.

Aware that Israel would cross the nuclear threshold only in extraordinary circumstances, these enemy states could be convinced, rightly or wrongly, that so long as their attacks remained non-nuclear, Israel would respond in kind.

After Palestine, the resultant correlation of forces in the region would be less favorable to Israel. The only credible way for Israel to deter large-scale conventional attacks after any such creation would be by maintaining visible and large-scale conventional capabilities.

Naturally, enemy states contemplating first-strike attacks upon Israel using chemical and/or biological weapons are apt to take more seriously Israel's nuclear deterrent. Whether or not this nuclear deterrent had remained undisclosed could affect Israel's credibility.

A strong conventional capability is always needed by Israel to deter or to pre-empt conventional attacks - attacks that could lead quickly via escalation to assorted forms of unconventional war. Here, Mr. Obama's preferred "road map" would impair Israel's strategic depth, and consequently, if recognized by enemy states, Israel's capacity to wage conventional warfare. These points should soon be understood in Washington as well as in Jerusalem, not only for Israel's sake, but also because a Palestinian state would be hospitable to al Qaeda preparations for anti-American terror.

Credo quia absurdum. However the Palestinian Authority might now go about declaring statehood, the resultant strategic consequences would be unfavorable to world peace and regional security. Ultimately, these consequences could include nuclear war in the Middle East.

Louis Rene Beres lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters. He is the author of 10 books and many articles on international relations and international law.

Comment: As one who lives here in Israel the Professor is correct.

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